At 08.25 on Tuesday 4th April 2017 I walked into a small branch of Superdrug, on London’s Oxford Street.
I was on my way to a radio studio in Soho with my partner, and had caught a glimpse of my oil-slick hair and barely-slept face in a shop window.
In this age of omni-snapping, even a Radio Face needs to be ready for the inevitable moment a 25-year-old, Insta-perfect producer bursts into the recording booth brandishing an iPhone to 'take a quick snap for the socials!’
I needed an emergency spray-on filter.
"Hang on, I need to grab some dry shampoo and concealer. I look like shit.
Back in 3."
This was the truth, and nothing but the truth.
But it was not the whole truth.
A few minutes later I emerged from Superdrug with the shampoo and concealer I’d mentioned.
And a packet of two pregnancy tests that I hadn’t.
Because at 08.25 on the 4th April 2017, I was officially 5 days and 12 hours late. Which was 5 days and 12 hours out of the ordinary for me.
My monthly cycle is like clockwork. Swiss clockwork, but without the cuckoos. (It's a Health and Safety thing, apparently.)
It’s so precise, there’s a computer in Greenwich hooked up to electronic signals from my ovaries; the second an egg is released, squealing with youthful excitement and hope down the flumes of my fallopian tubes, alarm bells go off at Mean Time HQ and all the watches in the world are synched.
The moment my period starts, a troop of 28 trumpet players stand to attention on the Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory and blast out the Bodyform theme tune; and I immediately start waterskiing.
Bang. On. Time.
Not 5 days and 12 hours late.
I’m basically the world’s biggest egg timer, and this month I was getting a very hard-boiled feeling about it all.
Come to think about it, my breasts had been feeling fairly hard-boiled for the previous few days too. And sore.
To put it mildly, The Signs Were All There.
I wasn’t due at the radio studio until 9, so we stopped at one of our favourite London caffeination stations, the aptly named, Kaffeine, on Great Titchfield Street. (If you’re ever in town, go. The fruit and granola is awesome, and the cups are supersexy black. These things matter.)
I was now five days, 12 hours and 11 minutes late.
‘Skinny cappuccino please, my love. I’m just nipping to the loo. Back in a tick…”
A tick. And a lifetime.
Door locked. Bag on floor. Hidden packet of Bun-in-Oven Detecting Kits removed from inside a copy of Oh Comely magazine. Plastic wrapper off. Box opened. Two white sticks taken out.
Eeny meeny miny…this one.
THIS one looks like it will work best and definitely give the Right Answer. I can tell, with sticks.
Yet another plastic wrapper hastily ripped off.
Hands starting to shake a little.
Stick out. Lid off.
Trousers down. Pants round ankles.
Try to wee.
Think of waterfalls.
Think of waterfalls inside lakes of wet fountains in the rain.
Come ON. I've been holding this one in for an hour, because every woman in the world knows you have to do these tests with your Super-Concentrated Morning Wee.
Try psyching it out; think of not weeing…
A stream of urine starts.
I try to time the bit of wee that goes onto the stick to be exactly the bit that’s most likely to contain the maximum amount of hormones this test is designed to measure. And, ideally, less of the prosecco and gin I drank the night before.
This is Top Scientific Whizzing.
And we're done!
Weeing on stick complete.
I remove the stick from the toilet bowl and stare at it intently, trying to transmit invisible but potent ‘please please get this right - even though I not entirely sure what 'right' is, which, I admit, is probably making this tricky for you' signals from my retina to the display screen.
You know, like those 'I AM SO RELAXED RIGHT NOW I COULD LITERALLY FALL ASLEEP IN THIS FIELD' ones you try to emit when you’re walking past a cow so it can’t sense that you’re actually shitting yourself. Which, just because it's a cow in a field, it probably is too.
Stare. And wait.
I haven't taken a pregnancy test for 14 years. Back then you had to put 50p in the side of the tester stick and wind them up.
I don't know how they work any more, or what I’m waiting for – a line? A tick? What colour? Does a line mean ‘yes, it’s positive!’ or ‘yes, it’s negative!’
What kind of psychological state was the person who designed this pissy stick in, when they decided?!
Need to check. Wait, hang on another tick. Another lifetime.
Pick box up off floor. Get it caught on trousers. Drop it. Try to catch it. Drop stick.
SHIT, what if there’s now OTHER WEE on it, I’m taking a pregnancy test for the girl who was in here before me and is now somewhere between Oxford Circus and Marble Arch on the Central Line, and is really bad at weeing into the toilet bowl . . . and is pregnant?!
Decide to bravely ignore this highly likely - and now heavily shit-and-wee-filled - scenario, and push on with hanging on.
Pick up stick again. Rummage inside box for instructions.
Unfold instructions, which appear to have been handily folded 250 times for ease of reading when freaking out. Start scanning the folds.
Yes yes…hold tip downwards…yes…mid-stream…blah blah…where’s the frickin’ PICTURE that every woman in this terrified position wants to see??
THERE it is.
Ahaaa, good news. These new-fangled tests are clearly designed for morons and panicking women: I’m not looking for a line or tick in the window at all. I’m looking for the actual, definitive, 100% certain, confusion-eliminating, let’s-make-this-really-easy-for-you P-WORD, written in letters.
I look frantically back at the little window on the stick. It's still completely blank.
Jesus, come ON! It’s been at least 40 seconds now. It MUST be nearly ready.
It took half that amount of time to get into this potentially up-the-duffed situation in the first place, ferchrissakes.
(Thought I'd slip that generous exageration in there - so to speak - in case he's reading this. I'm kind, like that. You're welcome, sweetheart.)
Any. Second. Now.
Can't breathe. Can’t see. Not being able to see is making it very difficult to see the . . word
. . . the word . . .
. . . ‘PREGN-’
ALL THE CUCKOOS IN ZURICH FREEZE, MID 'CUCK-...'
TIME. STANDS. STILL.
Right there. In black.
I turn the stick over just in case it's having a Blackadder moment and says ‘Not. LOL!’ on the other side.
Just . . ‘Pregnant.’
Right now. In the basement toilet of Kaffeine. With my skinny cappuccino being made upstairs and my pants on the floor.
Aged 42. Twenty years since I had my first baby, and fourteen years since my last.
After months of hardly daring to hope, wondering if I was now so old my ovaries had shrivelled, my uterus was dust and my eggs were scrambled.
Because it says so in the window.
And because the trumpets at Greenwich hadn't played this month.
Instead, the most incredible fireworks in the world had gone off, inside me.
2 weeks, 5 days, 12 hours and 16 minutes ago.
In the next blog . . .
"There follows the world's longest pregnant pause.
That's it. He’s going to leave me. I’ve fucked my life. It's a fuckathon gone oh SO wrong.
I wished I'd never gone to Superdrug. I wished I'd never pissed on the stick. I wished I -"